THE BRAZILIAN BATTENBERG

Triple culinary fusion, the cake is originally from UK, and was designed to honor the marriage of Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg from Germany, back in 1884.  In my version, a little tropical flair was added to the party, even if 134 years late. Better late than never.

LIME AND MANGO BATTENBERG
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

175 g butter
175 g sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175 g all-purpose flour
2 + 3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
zest of two limes
2 tsp Amoretti mango emulsion flavor
350 g marzipan

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour Battenberg pan, including the inserts.

Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Gradually add the beaten eggs.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt so that they are evenly mixed. Fold it in the butter-egg mixture.

Divide the cake batter into two equal parts.  Add the lime zest and a drop of green gel food dye to it. Mix gently. Add the mango flavor and a drop of orange food dye to the second portion of the batter.  Spoon the green mixture into two sections of the pan, spoon the orange batter on the two remaining sections.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan. When completely cold, remove from the pan and trim if needed. Brush the mango jam onto the long sides of the cakes and join one plain and one pink slice together and then one pink and one plain on top, creating a checkered pattern. Now brush the jam over all the sides. The jam is what glues the marzipan to the cake, so make sure you have a  thin coating all over the surfaces, and also in between the  four individual parts.

Roll out the marzipan on some sugar, making a rectangle approximately 8 x 12 inches. Place the cake on to the marzipan so that one edge is lined up to the edge of the marzipan (see my composite photo below). Trim away any surplus marzipan and both ends of the cake with a sharp knife. Decorate the top, if you so desire.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I first saw this cake on the Great British Baking Show, and was mesmerized by it. Of course, they made the poor contestants improvise a pan using folded parchment paper, and then go into heavy hyperventilation as the two-colored batters baked in that iffy environment. I followed a safer route and got the right tool for the job. Shocking, I know…

If you browse the internet and cookbooks, you’ll see countless variations on Battenberg, many will have not four, but 9 blocks of two-color bakes. In that case the easiest way is to bake two large cakes and cut blocks from them, assembling them in alternating colors. The traditional version has a single flavor, almond, and half the batter gets food coloring, usually pink.

I used the recipe that came with the pan as a starting point, as I reasoned it would generate the perfect amount of batter. The recipe called for British self-raising flour which is different from that sold in the US.  I made the British version from scratch (it is essentially 2 tsp baking powder per cup of all-purpose flour).  To take the cake into a more tropical atmosphere, I chose lime and mango in the form of lime zest (inspired by this cake from Philip), and Amoretti mango flavoring. Great product, by the way. I highly recommend it .

The cake was a perfect project for a rainy Sunday…

This was my second time working with marzipan (first time was for the Fraisier Cake), but in the Battenberg the marzipan plays a much more prominent role. You need to make sure it is rolled with uniform thickness (not too thin so it won’t crack as you fold it), and that you have enough marzipan to cover the whole cake. So, measure twice and roll away. Any imperfections on the edge of the cake and marzipan layer will disappear once you trim it. As the baker, you are allowed to nibble on the trimmings, but it is absolutely mandatory to share with any four-legged creatures in your home. Which explains that I barely had any, magnanimous soul that I am. Buck and Oscar were in absolute heaven, BogeyQT™ inhaled it all so fast, I doubt his taste buds had a chance to fire. Not much I can do about it. Such is the life of a 75-pound dalmatian.

If Battenberg Cake appeals to you, I urge you to visit Philip’s blog,
he has many versions, one better than the other.
Check them out with a click here.

The cake turned out wonderful, both flavors complemented each other well… and what’s even better, it was highly appreciated by our colleagues next day!

Now I want to pick new pairings of flavor… chocolate and orange, coconut and lime, white chocolate and strawberries… the possibilities are endless!

ONE YEAR AGO: Salzburg Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: If I had One Hour

THREE YEARS AGO: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apricot-Raspberry Sorbet: A farewell to Summer

SIX YEARS AGO: Marcela’s Salpicon

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Kebabs

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

NINE YEARS AGOGot Spinach? Have a salad!

 

 

 

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR: OCTOBER 2018

Time to feature recipes that are so simple they hardly qualify as such.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #1

AIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS
(also work in a regular oven)

AIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS

1 can chickpeas
a little olive oil
spices of your choice (I used Southwest mix from Penzey’s)
salt
grated Parmigiano cheese

Drain the chickpeas and dry them on paper towels. You need to prevent them from steaming, as much as possible. Place them in a bowl, coat lightly with olive oil, and add the spices of your choice, just a little sprinkle will do. Season with salt.

Spray the basket of your air-fryer with olive oil. Set it to 360 F. Add the chickpeas and roast them for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the basket every five minutes or so.  Transfer them to a serving bowl, and sprinkle Parmigiano while they are hot. Enjoy right away, or store them for many hours at room temperature, uncovered. They are still excellent next day.

If using a regular oven, set it to 400F, and roast the chickpeas for 25 to 30 minutes.

to print the recipe, click here

I’ve made them both ways, oven and air-fryer. The air-fryer gives a little more crunch, so it is my favorite method. The fact that it is so fast does not hurt it either!  Beware, they are addictive. Perfect to nibble as appetizer but also quite good sprinkled over salads, spinach in particular goes well with crunchy chickpeas. Curry is a great spice to add to them before air-frying/roasting. Make sure to save them in an open bowl, they keep their crunchy nature better that way. Not that they will last that long.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #2

LEMONY SAUTEED ZUCCHINI

LEMONY ZUCCHINI

Prepare enough zucchini pieces to almost cover a 12-inch non-stick frying pan, like shown below:


Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat until almost smoking. Add the pieces of zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and do not touch them. Let them develop a dark golden color on the side touching the pan, like shown below:

Only when they get to this point, move them to get some color on another side. Again, move them as little as possible, and wait for a deep color to develop. When the zucchini is tender (but not mushy), squeeze lemon juice all over, and shake the pan to move the slices around and gently coat them with the lemony glaze that forms.  Serve immediately, adjust seasoning if necessary.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #3

SMOKED RICE

Smoked rice, you ask? I first read about it in a blog I follow, Love and Olive Oil. Lindsay bought some smoked Basmati rice and raved about it. I was intrigued, and decided to take the smoke into my own hands. If you don’t have a smoker, you can follow the method described hereIf you have an electric smoker, it’s quite straightforward…

Add hickory wooden chips (or any wood you like) to the smoker

and set it to 175 F.

Place 2 cups of rice on a quarter-sheet baking pan.

Smoke it for one hour.

Allow it to cool completely, and cook the rice as you normally would.

 

I cooked one cup and saved another smoked cup for later. I was afraid that the rice would be all clumped up, because I did not want to rinse it after smoking. To my surprise, it was super fluffy, all grains well separated. The hour of heating at 175 F did not hurt anything, quite the contrary.  The rice had just the right amount of smokiness, and was excellent as a side dish for some sausages cooked sous-vide. We are smoking rice quite often these days…

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #4

SOUS-VIDE ITALIAN SAUSAGES

SOUS-VIDE ITALIAN SAUSAGES

5 Italian sausages
1/2 cup Lager beer
salt and pepper

Heat the sous-vide to 170 F.

Place the sausages inside a food-safe plastic bag. Add the beer, season with a little salt and pepper.  Use the water displacement method to close the bag.

Submerge the bag and cook the sausages for 1  to 3 hours.

Remove the sausages from the bag, discard the cooking liquid. Dry the sausages very well, and crisp them up on a non-stick pan with a light coating of oil, or on a hot grill.

The sausages cooked sous-vide can also be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. When you want to serve them, place them in hot water for 5 minutes, then proceed to saute them as described.

to print the recipe, click here

Sous-vide sausages, smoked rice, and a little butternut squash on the side…

When we cook sausages on the grill, we go through a pretty elaborate method of switching them from the grill to a pan with simmering beer on top of the stove. They go back and forth, back and forth, from simmering to the grill, to make sure they end up moist and flavorful. The sous-vide delivers the same quality in terms of texture, without any hassle at all. I doubt I will cook this type of sausage any other way. Even warmed up in the microwave two days later, they were excellent.  If you have a sous-vide gadget, give it a try.

I realize that this series of Incredibly Easy recipes used an air-fryer, electric smoker, and a sous-vide, but except for the Italian sausages, all others can be prepared without any special cooking equipment.

ONE YEAR AGO: Parsnip, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, October 2016

THREE YEARS AGO: Paleo Moussaka

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, October 2014

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, October 2013

SIX YEARS AGO: Bourbon and Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Crimson and Cream Turkey Chili

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Taking a break from the nano-kitchen

NINE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Chip Cookies

BOURBON-GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEA PESTO

At the risk of having some readers running away, I inform that this was made sous-vide. But, you can adapt to your favorite method of cooking without problems. I made the glaze and the pesto the day before, and started the tenderloin in the sous-vide at lunch time, for a fantastically easy dinner on a Thursday evening. As I pat myself on the back, allow me to share the recipe with you.

BOURBON-GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEA PESTO
(adapted from Modernist Cooking Made Easy)

1 pork tenderloin (450g to 900g)
small pat of butter
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

for the Bourbon glaze:
1 cup bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and pepper

for the pesto:
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese
Salt and pepper

At least 3 to 6 hours before serving heat a water bath to 150°F (or your favorite temperature for this type of meat).  Salt and pepper the pork then rub the lemon juice all over it. Place the pork in a sous vide bag with the butter then use the water displacement method to close the bag. Cook the pork for 3 to 6 hours.

Make the glaze by mixing together all ingredients in a pan, and simmering for about 30 minutes, until thickened. Reserve in the fridge if made in advance.

Make the pesto by adding all ingredients up to olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. When it’s all very smooth, add the olive oil, stir the Parmigiano cheese, and season with salt and pepper.  It is better if made in advance so that the flavors have a chance to develop together.  

At dinner time, heat  your grill or the broiler in the oven.  Remove the pork from the sous vide bag and pat dry. Brush the tenderloin with the glaze and sear it on the first side for a couple of minutes. Brush the glaze on the side facing up and turn the tenderloin. Repeat several times until it is coated with the glaze, cooking about 30 to 60 seconds per turn. Remove from the heat, brush once more with the glaze, slice and serve with the pesto at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The composite photo above shows how I almost pulled my left hamstring. I started “simmering” the components of the glaze, but evidently things got out of control, and I happened to catch the scene from the other side of the kitchen. Let’s say I arrived in time to prevent a huge mess, but not without some discomfort on a big muscle that was not happy with the unexpected sprint. Oh, well. It was all worth it. The glaze is pretty spectacular. And yes, I increased the heat again to catch it on camera because it was quite beautiful in its own adrenaline-inducing way. Reminded me of the lab in Brazil, when we used to throw dry ice in hot coffee. Fun times. Have you ever done that? Pretty cool, check it out here.

But, where was I? Oh, yes, our dinner. The pesto was wonderful too, but hubby preferred it warmed up, more like a pea puree of sorts. I like the contrast of cold with hot food, but I can actually enjoy it both ways. I leave the idea here, so you can decide how to serve it.  On a chilly evening, the puree idea is quite attractive.

Those familiar with sous-vide cooking might be wondering why I chose water displacement instead of vacuum sealing the bag. I’ve cooked pork tenderloin both ways, and in my opinion the vacuum sealing is too strong for this delicate type of meat. I find that it compresses the meat too much. By using the water replacement, it cooks with a perfect texture. Give it a try…

Great weeknight dinner! Pork, pea pesto, and roasted butternut squash.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Chip Cookies from Naturally Sweet

TWO YEARS AGO: Little Bites of Paradise

THREE YEARS AGO: Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, October 2014

FIVE YEARS AGO: Grilled Steelhead Trout

SIX YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Tomato Salad

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Spelt and Cornmeal Rolls

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Potato and Olive Focaccia

NINE YEARS AGO: Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

 

IN MY KITCHEN: OCTOBER 2018


Summer is over. I know, it’s pathetic and makes me want to cry. On the bright side, though, it is time to invite you for a virtual tour of our kitchen. In My Kitchen is a fun tradition started by Celia and now hosted by Sherry, from  Sherry’s Pickings. Stop by their virtual spots to say hello…

I like to start by sharing the gifts that found their way into our kitchen…. This time I have only one, but super special. From my beloved, a paint sprayer! No, I am not re-decorating the kitchen, this one will be devoted to spraying chocolate. How cool is that?

If you’ve been around lately, you probably saw my first adventure with it. Stay tuned for more…

In our kitchen…

This could be considered a gift too. After all, I bought it, but Phil slaved away to install it for me. A rack. Born to hold nail polish, but evolved into something much better.

Finally all my food dyes and powder dusts are organized and very easy to work with. I still have some space left for food dye emergencies of the unexpected kind. Or maybe a nail polish or two…

 

In our kitchen…

Stuff we’ll definitely miss now that summer is over… Look at those cute eggs!  They had been laid just hours before we brought them home.


In our kitchen…

Jams from our favorite producer, Maury Island Farm. I’ve featured them before, and it was time to get some new flavors like Boysenberry (you will see a post using this jam very soon). Those berries have a very interesting story, if you like to read about them, click here (but come back to walk with me through our kitchen). We also got Seedless Raspberry (perfect for the filling of certain French cookies), and a Blackberry-Blueberry mix. They are all fantastic!

In our kitchen…

Aji-Amarillo sauce. This is a product from Peru, and I highly recommend you give it a try, in case you’ve never had it. The jar says “hot pepper”, but I actually find it pretty mild, very flavorful. I normally add it to marinades together with yogurt, and use it either in chicken breasts or pork tenderloin. Just last week I added some to my default turkey burger recipe and it was a nice move, trust me. The color is gorgeous, pure turmeric-like yellow.

In our kitchen…

Japanese goodies!

Can you tell I am slightly obsessed with all things Japan? The roasted green tea was not easy to find, but totally worth it. The roasting process not only reduces the caffeine level, but it makes the tea taste quite smooth. It has a brown-golden color instead of the usual light green, and a more assertive smell. I intend to use it in baking too, in fact the first time I heard about it was in one of my Japanese baking cookbooks.

The little vial next to it is a ground pepper called Sancho. Think about a Chinese Szechuan pepper (with that interesting numbing characteristic), married to lime zest. I sprinkle it over fried eggs, and also find it particularly good on grilled salmon.

The other two products are related to yuzu, a unique Japanese fruit with strong citric flavor. I was lucky to find those items in our Oriental store in town, but the owner told me they are not always available. Lucky, lucky me. The bottle of yuzu juice is quite small, so after I use it for a special dessert, I will freeze it in cubes for future adventures. The marmalade will find its way to my beloved’s Ak-Mak crackers and some special dessert concoctions I have in mind.

In our kitchen…

I cannot fight the passing of the seasons, so I embrace it instead. Aren’t those the cutest toppings for cupcakes? And, speaking of toppings, I’ve got a couple more for you…

Beware of this company: Fancy Sprinkles. You can break your baking budget if you do not exercise caution browsing their MANY products. You’ve been warned. I managed to escape with just these two. Can you guess what I used the one on the right for?

In our kitchen…

Amoretti is another company I found out about through Macaron-Obsessed folks on Facebook. Amoretti makes very concentrated, natural flavors, and bakers go crazy for them. Oddly enough, I did not use the mango essence for macarons (not yet, that is), but for a tropical-ish cake. Not to sound repetitive, I have to say “stay tuned.”

In our kitchen…

I am so in love with this one! It is a pistachio bowl with a clever design. You get the pistachios, and discard the shells in the lower compartment. Of course, you could use it for olives, peanuts, or anything that you want.Or forget the waste function and use the two bowls independently. They are made of high quality plastic, sturdy and cute.

In our kitchen…

A baking mat to roll out cookie dough, pie dough, marzipan, or even to knead bread dough. It is better than most around. I like its size (not too big, not too small), the fact that it shows measurements both in inches and centimeters, and the way it glues to the surface, no slipping around. I love it. It is amazing the number of nice gadgets I learn about from being around serious bakers on Facebook groups. When they recommend something, I pay attention. Same goes for Craftsy classes online. Great source of tips on the right tools for any job.

In our kitchen…

Another very interesting gadget, this time I saw it in a cookbook. It does a fantastic job to uniformly soak genoise cake layers. Of course, you can use a spoon, a silicone brush, but it is tedious and hard to judge if you are soaking one spot too much and ignoring another. This bottle showers a constant amount as you go over the layer of cake with it. A pleasure to use, and very efficient.

In our kitchen…

Sourdough bread… a regular appearance in our kitchen, particularly now that I’m using a superstar starter. Elaine’s Star is one powerful mix! This was a White Cheddar-Sundried Tomato loaf, absolutely delicious. I will share the details next month. 

In our kitchen…

Watermelon Sorbet, made by my beloved. In fact, after juicing a watermelon bigger than a newborn baby, he proceeded to make sorbet three evenings in a row. Watermelon-Banana (with a touch of Cointreau), Watermelon-Blackberry (with a touch of pepper vodka), and Watermelon-Strawberry (also with a smidgen of vodka).  He enjoyed it with diced up dried mango bits and a cookie. Happy man. The ice cream maker is now stored for its hibernation during the cold months ahead. Pass the Prozac Kleenex. I cannot help but get hysterical emotional.

Well, I must stop here and say goodbye, see you in 2019… It’s been great to… wait, wait… what’s all this annoying barking, and biting of my ankles?

Ah, the pups… Insistent to have their five minutes of fame on the blog.

 

Ok, ok, they can join the tour too. I start with a little video, to show you how “well-trained” they are. Not very easy to make three derelicts perform a trick on the same small space, but somehow Phil got it done. Of course, Buck does three roll-overs for every one his brothers attempt to do. That pup is always ready to show his skills, even before we give the command…

This summer was pretty awesome for the Magnificent Trio. They went for long walks with us almost every evening, to profit from the long days, and to say hello to their new best friends, the horses. Well, we’ll skip the bit about Buck trying to bite the nose of the biggest one. He is our little pot of honey…

We pass through many farms, and in one particular spot we like to stop and feed the largest group of horses around. I used to be terrified of horses, but you can see I’m much better now.

The pups get along well, for the most part, but there is quite a bit of posturing and rivalry between the resident alpha dog, aka Oscar For the Love of God Stop, and BogeyQT™.

Oscar lies on Bogey’s bed at every opportunity, and firmly believes “if it matches my fur, it is mine.”

BogeyQT™ fires back with sharp criticism of his brother’s looks: “You need to trim these eyebrows, you look ridiculous and dishevelled.”  This is what a pair of handsome dog’s eyes should look like:

Are you on drugs? Your eyes have a bald and desolate appearance! And allow me to point out that your nose is so big it does not fit in the photo.  Whereas mine… it is the definition of a well-proportioned canine body part. I could move back to Hollywood (where “I” was born), and make some serious cash in the movies.

BALONEY!

Osky and BQT™ live in parallel realities. Literally, it seems…


Buck floats above all the non-sense, with his royal poise and dignity…

That, of course, rubs the brothers the wrong way…

And cannot even keep his nose clean. What a travesty!

But they all agree on one point: they live for the weekend!

 

Unfortunately, weekdays were not the worse to happen to them
since our last virtual tour…

Why? Oh, why???? We haven’t done anything wrong!

Or… have we?

Yes, we did have a work-related trip, and left them behind for a few days. But as usual, we came back to rescue them and resume our delicious routine…

That’s all for now, folks!  See you with in January 2019 for my next IMK… 

Thank you, Sherry for hosting! I invite my readers to stop by Sherry’s Pickings to take virtual tours of many kitchens around the world!

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, October 2017

TWO YEARS AGO: Little Bites of Paradise

THREE YEARS AGO: Coxinha de Galinha: A Brazilian Delicacy

FOUR YEARS AGO: Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Simple Dinner

SIX YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Tomato Salad

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Spelt and Cornmeal Rolls

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Potato and Olive Focaccia

NINE YEARS AGO: Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

GRILLED LAMB-STUFFED PITA BREAD

Amazing recipe. Ground lamb and grill take your mind to hamburger or koftas, right? But by enclosing it all inside a pita bread, you’ll have something totally different and incredibly tasty.  I first saw the recipe on a TV show by America’s Test Kitchen, then noticed variations of it in several Middle Eastern cookbooks. If you enjoy the flavor of lamb, give it a try. It’s a real keeper.

GRILLED GROUND LAMB PITAS
(adapted from The Splendid Table)

2 pounds ground lamb
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 (8-inch) pita breads

Mince cilantro very well. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in oil, lemon zest and juice, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. Add lamb and knead gently with your hands until thoroughly combined.

Using kitchen shears, cut around perimeter of each pita and separate into 2 halves. Place 4 thicker halves on counter with interiors facing up. Divide lamb mixture into 4 equal portions and place 1 portion in center of each pita half. Using spatula, gently spread lamb mixture into even layer, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Top each with thinner pita half. Press each sandwich firmly until lamb mixture spreads to ¼ inch from edge of pita. Transfer sandwiches to large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Place sandwiches on hot grill, cover, and cook until bottoms are evenly browned and edges are starting to crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, moving sandwiches as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip sandwiches, cover grill, and continue to cook until second sides are evenly browned and edges are crisp, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer sandwiches to cutting board and cut each in half crosswise. Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you look at the original recipe, you’ll see that I considerably reduced the amount of spices (and also the amount of olive oil, as lamb has enough fat). I tend to do that very often. In my opinion many recipes use too heavy a hand with spices, so that the flavor of the food itself becomes secondary. In this particular preparation, I prefer to let the taste of the meat shine a bit more. Do as you must to suit your taste. We loved these pitas, they were a complete meal with just the right amount of carbs to satisfy, and the lamb nicely seasoned.

You can adapt this method to ground turkey, ground beef, or even go vegetarian and make some type of garbanzo bean, mushroom concoction inside. That would be wonderful too, I am sure.

I made a pin for you…

ONE YEAR AGO: Elderflower Macarons (one of my favorite blog posts!)

TWO YEARS AGO: A Duet of Sorbets

THREE YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spiralizer Fun

FIVE YEARS AGO: Beer-Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak

SIX YEARS AGO:  Secret Recipe Club: Corn Chowda

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Page-A-Day Calendar (Pits and Chief 5 minutes of fame…)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Home Sweet Home (our beloved Pits in one of his last photos)

NINE YEARS AGO: Marbled Rye

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

VAGUE MOUSSE CAKE

Once again I decided to push a little the limits of my comfort zone. Actually, let me rephrase that. With this project I threw caution to the wind and walked through pretty treacherous baking neighborhoods. When you buy a Silikomart Vague mold because you are mesmerized by its looks but have no idea what to use it for, you are in for a wild ride. It’s not as if you could order a cookbook called  “Silikomart 101.”  In fact, it’s hard to find even blog posts to help you out. Lots of amazing concoctions pop up in Pinterest, but instead of recipes they direct you to fancy patisserie pages in Paris, Rome, Prague. No help whatsoever to make them materialize in your own kitchen. Through some google-overwork, I finally saw a little light at the end of the tunnel through an Italian blog hosted by Vanessa (Tra Zucchero e Vaniglia = Between Sugar and Vanilla). Thanks to my limited ability to read the language and the help of google translate to fill in the blanks, I managed to put my beautiful mold to use.  With this project, I also tried for the very first time an amazing technique: chocolate spraying with a paint gun. I know. I am gone. Beyond recovery. But… can we still be friends?

VAGUE MOUSSE CAKE
(inspired by Tra Zucchero e Vaniglia blog)

For the cookie base:
40 g all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (25 g) almond flour
¼ cup (25 g) hazelnut flour
1 tsp  unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, room temperature
50 g light brown sugar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the all-purpose, almond, and hazelnut flours and the cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar, then incorporate the flour mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly spread the dough about ⅛ in thick onto the prepared baking sheet (the batter should be slightly larger than the cake ring that will be used for assembly). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely. Reserve.

for the creamy raspberry insert:
75 g sugar
190 g raspberry pulp (passed through a sieve to remove seeds)
100 g whole eggs (about 2, lightly beaten)
2.5 g gelatine in sheets
65 g butter

Coat a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and place on it a 7-inch diameter flan or cake ring, preferably with a sheet of acetate lining it.  On another baking sheet, place a Silikomart globe mold (optional).

Soak gelatine in cold water. Put the beaten eggs, the granulated sugar and the fruit pulp in a glass bowl. Bring the mixture to 180 ° F in microwave at maximum power, measuring the temperature after 50 seconds. Continue to measure it every 30 seconds (it will take over 2 minutes to get there, depending on the power of your microwave).

Once the indicated temperature has been reached, add the gelatine and mix well to dissolve it completely. Cool to about 105 to 110 F and add the butter, emulsifying with an immersion blender. Pour the cream into the previously prepared steel circle until it also fills one of the globe mold cavities . Freeze for several hours or overnight.

for the white chocolate mousse
creme anglaise component (makes more than you’ll need):
175 g fresh cream
75 g fresh milk
55 g egg yolks
32 g sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Meanwhile, with a whisk mix the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar, taking care to incorporate as little air as possible. Add a small amount of the hot milk mixture slowly to the egg yolks to temper it, then slowly add the rest and blend well. Cook until it reaches 170 F.  Pass the cream through a sieve and transfer it into a cold container to stop cooking. If necessary, use an immersion blender to make it fully smooth. But if you are careful heating it gently and constantly stirring it, it should not need any further blending.

You will use 150 g of the creme anglaise for the white chocolate mousse, as follows.

for the white chocolate mousse:
150 g creme anglaise (made as described above)
250 white chocolate
225 g freshly whipped cream to soft peaks
2.5 g gelatin in sheets

Soak gelatin in cold water.

Chop the chocolate coarsely and melt it in the microwave with the defrost function or maximum power 500 W.

Warm up the creme anglaise to about 100 F. When the gelatin is soft, squeeze it to remove the water and add it to the creme anglaise. Mix gently to fully dissolve it. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, wait a moment and mix well. Fold the whipped cream to the still warm mixture.  Reserve.

for the chocolate spray:
300 g white chocolate
200 g cocoa butter

Melt together and place in sprayer at 90 F.

to decorate the globe insert: melted white chocolate

Assemble the dessert. Place the Vague mold on a baking sheet that will fit inside your freezer.  Fill with the white chocolate mousse, making a thick layer at the bottom.

Remove the raspberry creamy disc from the steel ring, removing the acetate and place it in the middle of the mousse making it sink a little.

Cover with the remaining mousse and beat the pan gently on the countertop so as to bring out any air bubbles. Level the mixture with a spatula and transfer into the freezer for several hours, preferably overnight.

Once frozen, turn out the cake and spray it with the mixture of white chocolate-cocoa butter at 90 F. Make a light coating, otherwise the mixture might just slide off the surface instead of forming a nice velvet texture.

Place the mousse over the cookie base, decorate the globe insert with a drizzle of white chocolate and set it at the center of the cake.

Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I completely changed the cookie base, as Vanessa’s recipe had some unusual way to deal with it. In her method, you make a dough, cool it, grate it, and press it to make the base. I felt too insecure to give it a try, and also thought it was a bit too convoluted. Plus, I wasn’t sure it would result in the texture I wanted for the bottom layer of my cake. I opted for a chocolate sable instead. It is a nice dough to work with, and I love the texture. For this torte, you’ll need two Silikomart molds, the Vague and a small globe mode to make the center decorative piece that goes on top. You can definitely omit it and serve the mousse cake plain. But it does add a striking look to the dessert.

A few things I learned through pain and struggles. You can see in my picture above that I used a silicone cake pan to make the raspberry insert.  I had a pretty tough time un-molding it. The sides are too high, the material a bit too flimsy, I thought the whole thing was going to be ruined. Luckily, just a few boo-boos on the surface, no major harm done. Note to self: invest in a flan ring for this type of adventure. With a 7-inch metal ring, you simply freeze it and pull it up, leaving the perfect layer of mousse behind. Lesson learned. You need the right tools for the job.

The overall scheme in this type of dessert goes like this: you make a cookie base, a creamy, frozen center insert with smaller dimension than the 8-inch full cake, and enough mousse to fill the mold, surrounding the insert. Once you have these three components, all that is left is to freeze it solid, un-mold and decorate the top. Chocolate spray is one cool method, as it gives a beautiful velvet texture. Contrary to fondant, it is a pleasure to eat. But no doubt, it is a very involved process. I used a Wagner sprayer that was a surprise gift from the saint I married. He actually tricked me. Asked me to go to Menard’s with him. Once we were there, he made a bee line to the paint section, next thing I knew, the box was in the shopping cart. He had even researched the model to get, as he knew I had been dreaming about spraying my world with chocolate. You knew already he is a keeper. This just confirms it… 

The velvet texture requires two things: the surface to be sprayed must be frozen, and the chocolate suspension must be at a maximum of 90 F, even a bit colder if possible. You need it to flow well, but to freeze immediately upon contact, forming the little velvety looking texture. Since the suspension needs to be passed through a fine sieve before going into the sprayer, things can cool down pretty fast. I decided to use my bread proofing box set at 98F to store the sprayer for 30 minutes or so. Then, I got the chocolate ready at the right temperature and worked as fast as I could to get the spray going. That brings another very important point: it is a very messy process. Very messy. People use all sorts of tricks to deal with it, usually doing it outside or in a garage with cardboard boxes forming a wall all around the piece to be decorated. But I found a tip that worked better than anything else: setting up the spraying unit inside the dishwasher!  I just removed the racks, placed a baking sheet inverted on it, a plastic turntable to hold the cake, and that was absolutely perfect. All I had to do was run the dishwasher in the end.

I watched quite a few youtube videos on chocolate spraying to make sure I would have some chance of getting it right. One thing is certain: no matter how many videos you watch, how many detailed instructions you read, nothing prepares you for the real thing. It’s a wild experience. The sprayer works very efficiently but it is very hard to see what is happening because there is a haze of spray everywhere. It was also not very easy to turn the cake while spraying, the Wagner is not feather-light. Plus, my heart was beating at 120 bpm, maybe faster. To summarize, things got intense pretty quickly. Let me rephrase that also: Hell broke loose, big time. I hope the next adventure will be easier, though. At least I am confident that the set up I designed works well to keep the temperature in the correct range for a while, I won’t need to rush to get it done. Apart from a few problems here and there, I am reasonably happy with the way my first adventure with the Silikomart Vague turned out.

As far as taste is concerned, this was absolutely scrumptious! It is pretty hard to beat this trilogy: chocolate cookie, white chocolate mousse, and raspberry cream. They all go together like a dream…

Things to keep in mind for next time:

1. A little more gelatin in the mousse so that it will un-mold with a more defined surface.

2. Place the raspberry insert slightly more on the center of the dessert, so that it won’t be at all visible underneath the top mousse layer. In other words, add a bit more mousse inside the mold before setting the insert on top.

2. The cookie base could be rolled thinner, but opinions are divided on this issue. Phil thought it was perfect the way it was.

3. Be a bit more Zen with the spray paint gun. There’s really no need to scare three dogs and a husband into hiding. Even if your contact lenses fogged up with the spray, no amount of screaming will make them clear up. That is a fact you proved to yourself. Next time,  keep calm, and spray on.

Make Sally and Bogey Quit That happy, grab a pin!


ONE YEAR AGO: Cottage Loaf, my very own technical challenge

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Ribs: Sticky, Spicy and Awesome

THREE YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Silky Cauliflower Puree with Almond Milk


EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Popeye-Pleasing Salad
.
NINE YEARS AGO: Summer’s Finale

 

 

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

LEBANESE LENTIL SALAD AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW!

Not too long ago I reviewed a cookbook by a fellow member of The Secret Recipe Club, remember? Well, here I am once again to share with you a recipe and a little overview of the beautiful cookbook just published by my friend Susan, Simply Vegetarian Cookbook. She is also a former-secreter, someone I used to have a ton of fun with “behind the curtains.” Good times, good times indeed!  I miss those days, although we are still in touch through our blogs and Facebook. I actually prepared two recipes to feature, so I tossed a coin (literally) to pick this one. The second will go as I often do, as a teaser. No recipe, just a photo. I’ve been called a teaser more than once in my lifetime. There are worse adjectives out there, so I accept the label with a smile.

LEBANESE LENTIL SALAD
(slightly modified from Susan’s Simply Vegetarian Cookbook)

3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup French green lentils
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups peeled and diced cucumber
1½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth (or water) to a boil in a medium pot. Add the lentils and ½ teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed. If there is any liquid remaining, drain it.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar and Dijon mustard. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Add the cooked lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese, and mint, and toss to coat. Season to taste with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: There are many types of lentils out there. For this particular recipe (and in fact, anytime you want to make a lentil salad), it is worth searching for French green lentils (such as Puy). They hold their shape after cooking, which is what you want in a salad, nothing worse than a mushy grain mixed with crunchy veggies and dressing. I love Susan’s approach of making the dressing right in the bowl you will serve the dish, one less item to wash. I normally do that even with leafy salads. I just don’t mix everything in advance. Place the more sturdy leaves (like Romaine lettuce) at the bottom, add the other components and toss them all when we are ready to eat.

I served this colorful and flavorful salad with grilled pork tenderloin on day one. Next day leftovers were amazing for lunch, re-visited with the highly fashionable fried egg (I know, many are tired of the fried egg omnipresence, but I happen to love it).


And now it’s time for a virtual tour of Susan’s book… come with me!

and please, make sure to visit Susan’s site too

The book is organized in a very clever, non-traditional way. Chapters are organized by method of cooking instead of course, or type of food.

CHAPTER ONE: Meatless Made Easy, is a great write-up on what to consider if you’d like to either become fully vegetarian or reduce the overall intake of meat in your diet. Susan cooks and eats mostly vegetarian dishes, but her husband is a full-blown carnivore, so she includes in her recipes little final tips she calls “flexitarian tips.” How the same recipe could be served or made to include some animal protein. Pretty clever, and definitely expands the usefulness of the book. I am a full-blown omnivore, and appreciate that aspect of the book.  As I like to do in my reviews, I will pick 2 or 3 top favorite recipes from each chapter, so you can get an idea of what it’s all about.

CHAPTER TWO: NO COOK RECIPES. Tough to pick just a couple of examples. She starts with smoothies, all pretty tempting. But I think the ones that truly called my name are Mediterranean Wrap with Spicy Chickpeas (I cannot have enough chickpea recipes), White Bean Wrap with Jalapeno-Apple Slaw, and her beautiful Lemony Romaine and Avocado Salad (I actually made a departure on it).

CHAPTER THREE: THIRTY MINUTES MAX. Who does not love that type of recipe, when we work all day and come home starving? From this chapter comes the featured recipe, Lebanese Lentil Salad, which is a winner all the way! But I had my eyes set on Middle Eastern Cauliflower Steaks, and Smashed Chickpeas and Kalamata Pasta (I considered making it with zoodles for a low-carb version full of flavor).

CHAPTER FOUR: FIVE INGREDIENTS. Another non-fuss chapter, which makes her book so appealing, you just know it will be an easy culinary project to get the meal ready. My favorites: Baked Sweet Potato Latkes (I know you just drooled), Delicata Squash and Black Bean Quesadillas (my favorite squash that I should bring home more often), Caprese Avocado Grilled Pitas (talk about creativity!).

CHAPTER FIVE: ONE-POT AND SKILLET. I went crazy for the recipes in this chapter, truly difficult to select just a few. I loved the idea of her Spicy Skillet Eggs, Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice, and Crispy Black Bean Burgers. Just to share a few.

CHAPTER SIX: SHEET PAN AND BAKING DISH. Chapter opens with a huge contender, I almost made it to feature today: Kofta-Style Chickpea “Meatball” Pitas. Curried Cauliflower Tetrazzini, and Baked Cheesy Broccoli with Quinoa make my top list too.

CHAPTER SEVEN: SLOW-COOKER and PRESSURE COOKER. Well, those are dear to my heart. I love using both cooking gadgets, and have a huge collection of recipes waiting to be made. My top choices from this chapter include: Tomato-Mushroom Ragu, Butternut Squash and Barley Risotto (these two are made in a slow-cooker). For the pressure cooker, I will go with Chickpea and Coconut-Curry Soup and Tomato Biryani.

CHAPTER EIGHT: KITCHEN STAPLES. Now that’s an interesting chapter. I confess that in every single cookbook that includes this type of chapter, I don’t look twice. I am never that interested in making a bunch of sauces or dressings and saving them in the fridge. Just not my style of cooking. What ends up happening is that I forget all about them and next thing I know, they get moldy, and into the trash they go. Now that I confessed my capital sin, let me say that I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to Susan’s Kitchen Staples. Lemony Breadcrumbs, Miso Butter, Smooth and Creamy Hummus, Tahini Miso Dressing? I want them all… Go figure.

She ends the book with a big reference guide to cooking all things veggie. Quite useful if you are considering venturing more and more into this type of nutrition. A very comprehensive list, with all the details for optimal preparation.

Before I leave you, let me offer the teaser recipe. This was soooo delicious! Another colorful salad, a Lebanese Chopped Salad (from Chapter Two) with torn pita bread. The dressing involves buttermilk… I say no more. Amazing! You need the book, and you know it (wink, wink).

Susan, thanks for allowing me to publish one recipe from your beautiful book, and I wish you the best of luck with it… I can imagine the amount of work involved from the conception to the publishing of a cookbook, so congratulations are in order!

ONE YEAR AGO: Cottage Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

THREE YEAR AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

NINE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

SaveSave

SaveSave